Evans product Hunter Dollander named NAIA world series MVP
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Evans native Hunter Dollander just finished his final season of college baseball and is taking home plenty of hardware. Dollander and the Georgia Gwinnett College Grizzlies defeated Central Methodist in the NAIA World Series, where Dollander was named MVP.
Dollander graduated from Evans in 2015, and originally signed with USC Aiken. After redshirting in 2016, Dollander put up solid numbers with the Pacers: going 2-0 over 18 appearances, picking up 27 strikeouts in 23.1 innings pitched. Dollander, however, was looking for a different experience and decided transferring would give him a better opportunity.
“When I was at USC Aiken, I enjoyed being there. I enjoyed being around the guys, but ultimately I didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me after a year or 2 there. When I was playing summer baseball in the CPO in Lexington, my head coach there knew one of the coaches at GGC. I was like, “Hey, I’m looking to transfer,” and then I ended up getting in connection with them. Going up there, seeing the campus -- which was gorgeous -- and they win a lot there. I was like, it sounds like a place I want to be,” said Dollander.
“I think the whole transfer thing, it was kind of all on me. I didn’t ask anyone for advice. I just thought it was the best opportunity for me and wanted to go for it, blindfolded and see how it worked out. And I guess it worked out for the best.”
His decision paid off, as the senior posted a 12-1 record over 15 appearances, also adding three complete games and 2 shutouts. He had 99 strikeouts on the year. He had put up solid numbers in 2018-19, but says coaches who specialized in analytics really helped him gain a better command of his pitches.
“We had some research and development coaches this year who really took the time to look at the data that we have from the technology and worked on pitch design a little bit. We noticed the spin rate on my fastball is high so that plays up in the zone, and I can throw a curveball off of that. And I was able to locate the majority of my fastballs this year and it turned out really successful.”
A strong season was followed up by his even stronger post season. In his two starts in the NAIA World Series, Dollander racked up 14 strikeouts over 15.1 innings. Despite the strong performance, Dollander didn’t expect to earn MVP honors.
“I didn’t think I was anywhere close to getting it. I thought that there were some other guys that deserved it, but like I told them, I’ll take it. So we were celebrating on the pitchers mound and I hear the whole crowd going crazy, and I hear something about MVP. And I see Hunter Caudelle walk up there and think, ‘he must’ve got it.’ I’m pumped for that guy and they’re like, ‘oh no, it was you!’ And I’m like, ‘wait, what?’ It was just kind of a shock. And man, it was awesome.”
The journey isn’t over yet. Dollander is heading north for summer ball. He’ll be going against college talent from various levels, including division one. He’s not entirely sure what his draft stock is, but does hope that a strong showing over the summer will help his chances.
“I wouldn’t say as a draftee, but more likely a free agent sign with the draft going down to 20 rounds this year because of COVID. I’m going to the Northwoods League this summer, playing in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m trying to show the scouts one last time why I should play for their team and hopefully get the opportunity.”
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